Hunters help the hungry

By Sean Phee

Hunters can help feed the hungry this holiday season while doing something they love.

Local food pantries are accepting deer meat donations this season.

One processing plant providing meat for the hungry is Whitetails Deer Processing in Carbondale.


Zach Hill, co-owner of Whitetails, said donating deer meat is a great option for people who enjoy hunting for the fun of the sport.

“A lot of people enjoy hunting, but they don’t want to shoot an animal and have it go to waste,” Hill said. “They can send it to us and we’ll cut it up and send it to food pantries who send it out.”

Hill said the plant cleans the meat and trims away blood clots and excess fat before it is distributed.

“We trim it up the same way we would if we were going to eat it ourselves,” he said.

The first shotgun season begins Nov. 21 and ends Nov. 23. Last year 148,000 total deer were killed with half coming from shotgun season, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Hill said he donates meat to both Jackson and Williamson County food pantries.

Jane Williams, a volunteer for the Murphysboro Food Pantry, said the pantry could use the meat. Providing enough food for the pantry is a challenge, Williams said.


“From the middle of October to the end of November, I’ll probably spend $20,000 easily on food,” she said.

Williams said the pantry used to get a lot of deer meat in the past, but they have experienced a sharp decline in recent years with the closure of a meat processor who used to work directly with the pantry. Now it gets less of its deer meat from processing plants and more from private individuals.

Deer meat is good but it can be tricky to work with because of how lean it is, Williams said. She said the pantry sometimes has to get creative with the meat.

“A lot of people don’t like deer meat burgers because they’re so dry,” Williams said. “Our clients love to use it to make chili.”

Hill said the low-fat content of deer meat makes it healthy, and there are many foods it can be used in, including soup and spaghetti.

Davon Bauer, a junior from Belleville studying criminal justice, said donating deer meat is a great use of excess meat.

“It sounds like a good idea,” Bauer said. “It’s a more personal way to give back.”

Christopher Hanusiak, a sophomore from Chicago studying computer science, said these programs can help people see hunters in a better light.


“A lot of people think hunting is just for the fun of killing animals but there’s people that use every part of the animal,” Hanusiak said. “Everyone should try it or educate themselves about it.”

Wiliams said it would be wonderful if more people got the word out about donating deer meat. Even one deer helps immensely, she said.

“Even one deer is 50 or 60 pounds of meat,” she said.

Williams said the Murphysboro Food Pantry feeds around 1,000 people a month.

Illinois Sportsmen for Hunger is an organization created by IDNR to encourage hunters to donate meat, according to the department’s website.

Hunters may be eligible to receive money from the state to cover processing costs, as the donations are tax-deductible, according to the website.

Hill encourages more people to donate to families in need.

“Don’t let your meat go to waste, you’ll be helping out a lot of people by bringing it in,” Hill said